Who’s a Good Student?

For the UAS Whalesong
You are! You’re a good student. However, while paying attention in class and turning in your homework on time are important parts of college, your grades aren’t the only thing you need to keep an eye on. College is like adulthood with training wheels, and therefore it’s also an important time for you to keep an eye on yourself. Just like how everyone has different learning styles – visual, auditory, etc. – everyone also has different ways of dealing with stress, and we’re heading into a stressful time here at UAS. It largely depends on what your major program is, I think, but at least for me I find midterms to be more harrowing than finals. It doesn’t help that on top of whatever we’re all trying to get done for school and work, we also have to deal with basic Alaska problems: the weather’s getting colder, sometimes the rain seems like it will never stop (that’s more a Juneau problem than a universal Alaska one, though), and every day we lose whole minutes of sunlight. That’s a lot of stuff all going on at once, making it hard to pinpoint exactly why you’re so stressed, or exhausted, or moody, or experiencing any number of other feelings or behaviors.
Okay, I promise I have a point, and here it is – self-care is really important. There’s a lot of pressure to succeed and stay on top of things in school. Trying to live up to the standard that pressure sets is a tough job, and doing so doesn’t mean that you should throw your own health and comfort out the window. Professional athletes work really hard and push themselves, but they still make time to do their warmup and cooldown routines. They get good nights of sleep and eat full, healthy meals. UAS is not a school rife with professional athletes, but hopefully you can see where I’m going with this. If you’ve been feeling particularly on edge or emotionally volatile lately, take a step back and try to see what’s going on in your life that might be causing it. Is it the lack of sunlight? Are you not eating full, regular meals? Have you been pulling multiple all-nighters in a row? Then, see what you can do to fix it. Get yourself a sun lamp and some vitamin D pills – or chewy gummies, which are what I would recommend. Make a menu of at least 3 meals every week and then make sure you have the ingredients on hand to prepare and eat them. (Invite friends over for dinner, if you need the impetus of others depending on you to feed them in order to actually cook.) Cancel all your social plans, shut your laptop, throw your phone across the room, and take a nap.
Sometimes, though, there’s nothing you can do. You just have too much work and homework to do, and despite your best efforts at organizing and scheduling, you’re still only getting 5 hours of sleep a night (if that) and living on granola bars and coffee. In that case, self-care almost becomes more important than if you had plenty of time to devote to it. We have the benefit of being alive and going to school in the 21st century, a period when there is lots of access to many of life’s creature comforts. So try to make the tiny, everyday things and events in your school and work a little more bearable. Treat yourself to the coffee or tea of your choice from Spike’s – or, if you prefer to make your own, take the time in the morning to make it good. Just the way you like it, with milk and sugar (or without) and in your favorite travel mug. Give yourself an extra 15 minutes in the morning to make a bowl of your favorite oatmeal or cold cereal – I know it’s a little easier for me to be conscious at 6 AM if a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch is in my immediate future. Or, if you only have time to grab some yoghurt or a granola bar, toss a lunchbox together the night before and stick it in the fridge! Then you have food you know you’ll like to throw in your backpack in the  morning and eat during that 20-minute break between classes (Or in class; most professors I’ve had are pretty lax about that).
Other good ideas include wearing a lot of your favorite color or accessory, listening to your favorite songs on the way to and from class, or even just writing your class notes with different-colored pens. Popular YouTuber Jenna Marbles recently posted a video in which she advocates getting a pet, even if it’s just a plant; it gives you something to try and keep alive that isn’t yourself. I followed a nursing student who made a point of putting on makeup and dressing up when she was going to take a test.
Most importantly, please remember the timeless words of Zac Efron and his friends: we’re all in this together. Science majors are constantly slammed with tests, assignments, and 3-hour labs; humanities majors have 12-page papers and an alarming amount of class-required reading; I’m not sure what math majors do, but I think they must sit together in the Learning Center and feel smugly superior with their fancy calculators. Still, I’m sure they have their struggles as well. Maybe when they feel stressed, they go online and shop for even fancier calculators. Regardless, even if you think there’s nothing you can do about the amount of assignments you have to do, you’re wrong. And remember – it’s totally okay to cancel previous plans if you’re burnt out. Social activities are important in college, but not if you break down crying in the middle of Monopoly night because you just spent the last week studying for an important exam and all you really wanted to do was sleep for the next 15 hours.
So watch that comfort movie, treat yourself to that expensive import tea, buy that weird dragonfruit-papaya-Herbal-Essences shampoo that you’ve been eyeing up, wear the heck out of your favorite hoodie. You’ve earned it, soldier – and if anyone questions you, you’ve got the GPA to prove them wrong.

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